Life lived on the margins of society is rarely by choice. People are there because they are a variation from
the norm and nobody wants to deal with that. Of Webster’s variety of definitions, one says that margin is “a
degree of difference”. That’s as good as any because it doesn’t pass judgment.
Most great preachers appear to come from ordinary backgrounds and situations. That’s the norm. Many of
the greatest of the greats though, the ones who God uses in spectacular ways to get the job done, seem to
be selected from the margins. Society’s rejects becoming God’s putty.
What about in ancient days? To name only a few, Rahab who’s lifestyle would expel her out the door of
many churches in a flash, the widow of Zarepheth who was a destitute heathen outside of the preferred fold
and in an unattractive situation, the unlikely Huldah working as a tailor on the other side of town, Joseph
discarded as no good by his own brothers, and David the youngest son of Jesse who was left out on the
hillsides while the older brothers were favored for Samuel’s blessing.
You get the drift.
Likewise in the New Testament we find Mary Magdalene the unlikely sinner transformed to a life of worth, the
unknown Philemon who established a church in his home and was likely martyred for it, the humble Phoebe
who was surely used in far more influential ways than the Scriptures record, Peter the burly fisherman who
would have been doomed to a life of mediocrity, and the ever unpopular Paul with the difficult personality who
became the living example of a Christ-changed life. Marginal people used in anointed capacities.
The modern day variants go from one end of the spectrum to the other, and rather than list them, I think
you’re capable of making up your own list. What they are are a variety of marginal people all used in rare
and powerful ways by the Holy Spirit, each setting the world on fire,
changing the status quo.
If you’ve never really fit in, if you’re a marginal person, chances are that God may well be better able to use
you more than anyone around you. You’re as putty in His hands. There’s no question that Jesus sought out
those who were marginalized. If He were physically here right now, you could look for Him at the bus station,
or in the prison yard, or downtown at the local gay bar, or at the bedside of a sickly boy left for dead. If that
shocks you, you need to read the Bible with new eyes. In Luke 15:1 Jesus surrounds Himself with the
despised tax collectors and blatant sinners. The people of the margins were Jesus’ companions, His
confidants. They still are. Normal is a good thing, but marginal might be even better.